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Time to Degree & COVID-19

Dear colleagues,

We held three online community meetings on April 8, for master’s, doctoral, and international students. The recordings will soon be posted on our coronavirus microsite. One of the key concerns, particularly among doctoral students, was time limits for completing milestones and the degree.

The Graduate School time limits are:

  • Master’s: 5 years to complete the degree.

  • Doctoral: 5 years to advance to candidacy and 9 years to complete the degree.

We are seeking your support in sharing with graduate students that we have a well-established process for time to degree extension requests and assuring them that we will approve extensions related to COVID-19 disruptions. Many students will be able to complete their degrees on time, but we recognize this may not be possible for all students--particularly those whose research and scholarship was seriously disrupted by the pandemic. It is critical that we are united in our assurance that we will approve all time extension requests related to COVID-19 disruptions.

The question arose as to why the university would not issue an automatic extension to all graduate students. Extensions must be entered manually into our antiquated Student Information System, and to do so for over 10,000 students (most of whom will not ultimately need an extension) would require extensive staff time that could otherwise go toward supporting students that need our assistance. The existing process for requesting an extension ensures that we can grant extensions when needed.

Programs are responsible for other milestones--completion of courses, oral and written exam exams, practicums and internships, etc. We urge programs to maintain and not waive milestones, but to exercise maximum flexibility in their application. If students are ready to complete a milestone, please be creative in order to allow students to progress even under these unusual circumstances. If, under normal circumstances, a written exam is proctored or an oral exam is held in person, consider an unproctored or remote exam; if a performance before a live audience is normally required, consider a remote or recorded performance.  A student’s progress and graduation should not be delayed unless it is necessary (e.g., because a practicum or internship required for certification or licensure cannot be completed) or it is requested by the student, and therefore for the benefit of the student.   

Call or email us if we can help your students with time to degree concerns or other issues. 

Best regards,

Steve Fetter